Today, Jesus has yet another altercation with the Scribes and Pharisees, groups of religious Jews who were very scrupulous in their study and observance of the Torah, or Law. They went to great lengths to be sure that they, and others, did not break any of the 613 laws given in the Torah. Jesus, as we know, had a long-standing, ongoing feud with them. His problem with these groups was based on the fact that, though they knew how to follow the law, they didn’t know how to go beyond it. They couldn’t accept the Gospel that Jesus preached because they were devoted to the letter of the law, so much so that they often missed the law’s spirit.
The message Jesus gives his disciples then and now is not that we can disregard our parents or authorities. The message he gives us is that we must go far beyond that; we have to put God as the foremost of our authorities. This meant for the Scribes and Pharisees that they could not claim righteousness when the followed the law but ignored the real needs of other people. He might say the same to us today. We could get all caught up in the rules that define our society and our Church. And I won’t deny that these rules are important. But God’s law of love as shown in service to others surpasses any other rule we can name. Those of us who would be great must be the slave of all. Sometimes we will have to step aside and let go of things that had been important to us, and to take hold of the Gospel by serving the poor, visiting the lonely, healing the broken and comforting the sorrowing. The foremost of our authorities is not the law or rules, but the spirit of the Gospel, and the foremost of our energies has to be directed toward living that way.